by Tim Troglen | Hudson Hub-Times Reporter
Summit County voting officials are reviewing potential solutions to a variety of problems voters reported Nov. 6 at polling locations in Twinsburg, Hudson and across the county.
Complaints included too few poll workers at sites, waiting in line for more than two hours to vote, broken ballot scanners and confusion over which precincts had been eliminated during recent redistricting.
Voters at Ss. Cosmas and Damian Catholic Church, precincts 3B, 4A, 4B and 5B in Twinsburg, saw a 45-minute to an hour wait at some points during the day, and some Twinsburg voters at Bissell Elementary School say they experienced a 40-minute wait in the morning.
"We had many complaints regarding the changing of polling locations and the waits that were created due to the larger sizes of the new precincts," Summit County Board of Elections Deputy Director Kimberly Zurz said Nov. 7.
The Summit County Board of Elections reduced precincts from 196 in March to 151 in November as a cost-saving measure. Hudson went from 23 polling locations to 13.
That led to more people than usual at polling spots across Summit County, where Secretary of State John Husted reports voter turnout was 71 percent, Zurz said.
"We tried to prepare for these situations as best we could," shea added.
The Board of Elections is looking into the issues, according to Zurz.
"The Board had some discussion about some of these issues already, and both the director and I are reviewing all of the concerns raised to us this election and will make recommendations to the board for their consideration," she said.
Zurz does not know what recommendations will be presented to the Board, or what the outcome will be, she said.
The Board did appreciate hearing the concerns of the voters, she added.
"We appreciate the voters bringing their concerns to our attention to enable us to have better information when we plan for the next election cycle," Zurz said. "We want the voters of Summit County to have a positive experience whether it be at the polls, for early voting or absentee by mail."
LONGS LINES A MAIN CONCERN AT RETIREMENT COMMUNITY
Laurel Lake Retirement Community in Hudson was one of the polling locations impacted.
Voters and officials reported long lines, with voters waiting more than 2 1/2-hours during the afternoon. Voters at other locations in Hudson reported waits of more than an hour.
Laurel Lake, which used to be its own precinct for residents of the retirement community, was combined with other former precincts, said Belinda Wing, a voting observer with the League of Women Voters.
"I've never seen this before, where you had the mix of two different populations," she said.
Four poll workers were assigned to most Hudson precincts, including Laurel Lake, according to Wing.
"The number of poll workers did not increase to accommodate the larger volume or voters," she said.
The workers, who began at 6 a.m. and stayed until about 9 p.m., did not receive breaks and were tired, Wing said. She brought coffee and food to workers, who had to find a few minutes between voting duties to eat.
"The poll workers themselves did not have a break," Wing said. "They could not have lunch or the two breaks they were required, because they didn't have any stoppage. It was constant."
The lines at Laurel Lake began with about an hour wait in the morning and stretched to more than 2 1/2 hours in the afternoon, Wing said.
Many seniors needed help voting, due to a variety of special needs, such as wheelchairs, walkers and vision problems, she said. They needed more personal assistance and special seating for wheelchairs, which takes longer, Wing said.
"It takes two to three times longer to process the ballot," she said. "It's a unique situation."
When a voter needed help, two workers, a Republican and a Democrat, by law, had to stop and assist.
"That was happening all day at Laurel Lake. There just simply weren't enough poll workers there to accommodate the needs of the seniors," Wing said. "I felt really bad for the poll workers."
Wing witnessed several voters leave, hoping to come back later. However, she said some left and did not return.
There also was confusion about new voting locations.
Tricia Hunn said she voted at the Chapel of Hudson in the past, but was among the voters consolidated at Laurel Lake. She said she waited two hours to vote.
"It's hard on senior citizens," she said.
She said she was determined to wait because her husband had waited at the Chapel for more than an hour before finding out he was at the wrong location. He then had to wait nearly two hours at Laurel Lake to vote.
One voter said there used to be two voting tables at the retirement community, but there was only one Nov. 6.
Even with the long lines, there were empty voting booths because the process of identifying voters, finding a voter's name in the larger books with more voters per precinct, and assigning a ballot created a bottleneck at the single table.
Laurel Lake resident Carol Leap said she felt like she had gone back to the 1950s because of the paper ballots instead of electronic ballots.
"They're doing everything to discourage people from voting," Leap said. "I can't stand for hours [in line]."